Ryerson Fashion Research Collection

Opening the closet door to a Canadian fashion archive

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Resource List for Canadian Fashion

This resource list was compiled with the hope that it would inspire fashion students and scholars to undertake research into Canada’s fashion history.

Eaton's black silk shirtwaist, c.1900 FRC2008.03.007

Black silk shirtwaist, Label: T.Eaton Co. Ltd., Toronto and Winnipeg, c.1900

For publications prior to 1984, Jacqueline Beaudoin-Ross and Pamela Blackstock compiled a list for the journal Material Culture Review that is accessible here.

FRC_EveDresses_1998.01.002_A+B_F34_Web (1)

Select publications after 1984 are listed below:

Barnwell, S. (1984). Pattern diagrams for three Eighteenth-century Dresses in the Royal Ontario Museum. eds. Mary Holford. Toronto: ROM.

Bates, C. (2013). A Cultural History of the Nurse’s Uniform. Ottawa: Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Bates, C. (2001). “Creative Ability and Business Sense: The Millinery Trade in Ontario”. In Framing Our Part: Constructing Canadian Women’s History in the Twentieth Century by S. Cook, L. McLean, and K. O’Rourke (eds.). Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press. p.348-358.

Beaudoin-Ross, J. (1992). Form and Fashion: Nineteenth-century Montreal Dress. Montreal: McCord Museum.

Careless, V. (1993). Responding to Fashion: The Clothing of the O’Reilly Family. Victoria: Royal British Columbia Museum.

Cooper, C. (1997). Magnificent Entertainments: Fancy Dress Balls of Canada’s Governors General, 1876-1898. Fredericton: Goose Lane Editions.

Dorosh, M. (1995). Cannuck: Clothing and Equipping the Canadian Soldier: 1939-1945. Missolua: Pictorial Histories Publishers.

Forest, J. (2013) “Dressing Funny: Humour in Canadian Fashion, Humour as an Element of Canadian Design Identity”. Costume Journal 43.1: 12-17.

Kim, A. (2013) “The Courturier and The Maple Leaf”. Costume Journal 43.1: 18-24.

MacKay, E. (2007). Beyond the Silhouette: Fashion and the Women of Historic Kingston. Kingston: Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

MacKay, E. (2013). “How Clothes Make the Seaman: Interpretation of 16th Century Basque Whaling Garments”. Costume Journal 43.2: 14-20.

Mida. I. (2013) “The Re-Collection of the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection: Opening the Door to a Canadian Fashion Archive”. Costume Journal 43.2: 4-6

Palmer, A. (2001). Couture and Commerce: The Transatlantic Fashion Trade in the 1950s. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Palmer, A. (ed). (2004). Fashion: A Canadian Perspective. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Pine, J. (2013) On Finding Canada’s Fashionality or Does Canada Have a Fashion Identity? Costume Journal 43.1: 4-6.

Routh, C. (1993). In Style: 100 Years of Canadian Women’s Fashion. Toronto: Stoddart.

Sivil, A. (2013) The Fluidity of Gender in Denis Gagnon’s Spring/Summer 2013 Collection. Costume Journal 43.1: 7-11.

Sleedman, M. (1997). Angels of the Workplace: Women and the Construction of Gender Relations in the Canadian Clothing Industry, 1890-1940. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Taylor, R. (2003). A Common Thread: A History of Toronto’s Garment Industry. Toronto: Beth Tzedec Synagogue (Exhibition Pamphlet).

Townsend, E. (2013). “Exploring the Jewellery and Wardrobe Collections of Georgina and Eleanor Luxton: Fashionable Women Can be Fashionable Anywhere.” Costume Journal 43.2: 21-28.

Triemstra-Johnston, J. (2013). “The Language of the Plain Sewing Sampler”. Costume Journal 43.2: 7-13.

Wahl, K. and David, A.M. (2010). “Matthew Cuthbert Insists on Puffed Sleeves: Ambivalence Towards Fashion in Anne of Green Gables”, in Anne’s World: A New Century of Anne of Green Gables by I. Gammel and B. Lefebvre (eds). Toronto: University of Toronto Press, p.35-49.

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Of Shirt-waists and the Modern Woman

By Ingrid Mida, Collection Co-ordinator


Black silk shirtwaist with lace jabot, FRC2008.03.007

A shirt-waist, or waist as they were sometimes called, was a tailored blouse worn by women at the turn of the century. Worn with a long skirt, the shirtwaist was one of the first separates worn by the modern woman. Change the shirtwaist, change the look.

Shirt-waists came in a variety of colours and fabrics, although white was the most common. This particular shirt-waist from the Ryerson Fashion Research Collection (FRC2008.03.07) is made of black silk and has a label from T. Eaton Co. Limited, Toronto and Winnipeg. The label is also stamped with “No. 52865”. The waist is size 34. The vertical pin tucks along the front add visual interest and the front placket conceals the 5 button closures. The high banded collar closes with snaps and the machine lace jabot with black beads appears to have been added by the original owner after purchase and is loosely sewn onto the banded collar.


Detail of Lace Jabot and Collar of Black Silk Shirtwaist FRC2008.03.007


Label of Shirtwaist FRC2008.03.007

Label of Shirtwaist FRC2008.03.007

Shirtwaists came in a variety of colours and fabrics. Silk was the most expensive choice at $7.50 while a cotton shirtwaist cost only $1.50 according to the 1901 Eaton’s Catalogue. Eaton’s had a factory in Toronto where these shirtwaists and other garments were manufactured.


Image of Eaton’s factory and store from back of Eaton’s 1901 Catalogue #46


T. Eaton Co. Ltd. 1919 in Eaton’s Golden Jubilee (1869-1919)
Sourced from Torontoist

For those with a dressmaker, sewing skills or unable to afford to buy a shirt-waist, patterns were available for order from magazines like Harper’s Bazar. The February 1902 issue of Harper’s Bazar offered a cut paper pattern no. 4399 in sizes 32, 34, 36, 38, and 40 inches bust measure. The pattern cost 25 cents. The article describes the shirt-waist as requiring three and a half yards of 27-inch material and provides a full page of description including this extract:

“A thoroughly practical shirt-waist pattern in the new style, opening at the back, is show in the waist of Cut Paper Pattern No. 399. This waist is laid in shallow box-pleats, the edges of which are cut-stitched together with a contrasting shade of sewing-twist. Fancy buttons catch the plats through to the lining, or if it is preferred to omit the lining portions, those buttons, being sewed through the three folds of material, hold the pleats firmly in shape, and serve to make the upper part of the waist fit smoothly. The model is a very good one for simple silk waist’s for flannel and even for cotton or linen materials. If used for washable materials, a better effect will be produced by stitching the pleats flat, either by machine or with a fancy feather-stitch, than by copying the cat-stitch shown in the illustration. Naturally, in making a shirt-waist which is to be laundered, the lining would be omitted.”  (page 191-192)

The balance of the description includes suggestions on how to customize the shirt-waist and the article also suggests a pattern for a five-gored skirt with a shallow inverting pleat at the back and a slight train requiring 3 1/2 yards of material 45-inches wide.

The Ryerson Fashion Research Collection has several shirtwaists in a range of material for study, some with lace trim. A selection of them are shown on this rack.

A rack of FRC shirtwaists, Photo by Ingrid Mida 2014

A rack of FRC shirtwaists, Photo by Ingrid Mida 2014


Harper’s Bazar, A Monthly Magazine for Women, February 1902, Harper & Brothers, New York.

T. Eaton Catalogue, 1901.

T. Eaton Company History  Canadian Encyclopaedia website link

T. Eaton Strike, Torontoist website link